http://www.hometownannapolis.com/cgi-bi ... _03-24/TOP
Community college experimenting with 'podcasting'
By KIMBERLY MARSELAS, For The Capital
Those tiny white headphones are nearly ubiquitous. All over college campuses, the cords of the trademark iPod accessories burrow into countless hooded sweatshirts
Handheld digital music players are so mainstream these days that many professors are bringing them into the classroom, too. After all, Apple's trendy iPods and other MP3 players don't just play music. They can hold photos, video and record songs, lectures or just about anything else -- and that provides a new way to reach out to students.
At Anne Arundel Community College, several instructors are experimenting with digital recordings this fall, and school officials are finalizing plans to make those recordings available online.
"We're at the very, very early stages of podcasting," said professor Shad Ewart, director of business programs for the Arnold school.
Though Mr. Ewart is recording his lectures from his Principles of Accounting I class, they've yet to go live on the Internet. That's largely because administrators are still deciding whether the general public should have access to classroom material or whether recorded lectures should be posted on a password-protected site.
Even as they work out the details, college officials held a Web conference Wednesday designed to encourage faculty to use podcasting as a teaching tool. With the latest incarnation of the iPod, even videocasting is an option now.
Local educators want to make sure that even those who aren't crazy about the new technology can keep pace with the evolution.
"You get the early adopters in on it and then it kind of diffuses out to the rest of the faculty," said Paul Warner, director of learning technologies at AACC. "There's really this whole convergence of technology upon us now."
How it works
After recording a lecture or sound bites, professors transfer the material from their iPods or other MP3 players to a computer. There, they can convert it to a smaller file using a program such as Audacity, and post it on a Web site or e-mail it directly to students.
Students can listen to the material in a variety of formats, and some schools lend out iPods or other players to students who don't have their own. Duke University led the way with the iPod First-Year Experience in August 2004. The private university in Durham, N.C., gave iPods and voice recorders to 1,600 incoming freshmen, who used them in foreign language, humanities and computational methods courses.
Universities from Georgia to Minnesota followed, either by distributing iPods to their students or encouraging professors to podcast.
Some professors worry that access to podcast files would be an issue for students without their own MP3 players, and University of Maryland junior Megan Carroll agreed that iPods only seem like they're everywhere.
"I know a lot of people who don't have iPods" said the Arundel High School graduate, who got her audio-only iPod mini in September. "And they're kind of expensive."
Although Apple's latest model starts at $299, AACC's Mr. Ewart expects access won't be a much of a problem on his campus. Students will ultimately be able to download files on school computers, but he thinks most will want to zap files to their own players.
"From what I've noticed, they've all got them in their ears," he said. "If it's not an iPod, it's some other type of MP3 player."
The goal of podcasting is to make lectures portable, but it also allows for repetition and reinforcement - a major plus when classroom time is limited.
"The first time a student hears something is not necessarily when it sinks in," said Dr. Patrick Jackson, a self-described tech geek and assistant professor of international relations at American University's School of International Service. "By recording these and making them available as MP3s, they can actually get what you're saying,
Dr. Jackson uses an iPod in courses covering theory, research methodology and the philosophy of social science. He said the "hip factor" of the technology allows teachers to connect with their students, but it also has practical applications.
"iPods are very cool," he announced during a recent faculty forum on digital audio at the University of Maryland, College Park. "Now how can we use them to fulfill some of the basic foundations we're supposed to as university professors?"
For starters, Dr. Jackson says sending lectures or clips from other sources to students via the Internet allows him to devote more class time to informed discussions, readings and one-on-one student assistance. He finds that allowing students to decide how they'll listen to a file - at the computer, downloaded on their own iPod or burned to CD - and where - at their desk, at the gym or in the car - gets them more excited about learning.
He's found that most important for students who are just learning English. While they may not stop a professor to repeat something during class, they are in control when listening to a podcast. The student can slow down a lecture, repeat it multiple times and skip over parts he or she understood initially.
Mr. Ewart has been recorded on cassette tape for years by students with limited English proficiency and said the podcasting craze is only the latest incarnation of that study aid.
He thinks iPods have the potential to help traditional adult community college students as well. They may have to choose between attending a class, going to work or staying home to care for a sick child. In those cases, a podcast offers a good backup.
Mr. Ewart isn't concerned, however, that students will intentionally skip classes knowing they have audio files to rely on.
"I don't think it's an incentive not to come to class," he said, adding that accounting courses require incremental skills that aren't easily acquired by listening to lectures over the Internet the night before an exam.
The Naval Academy and St. John's College aren't jumping on the podcast bandwagon just yet. At St. John's, where classes are discussion-based, lectures don't exist and professors have been replaced by tutors, student leaders say it would take a radical transformation for podcasts to catch on.
"It would never be used as part of our instruction because you can't have a conversation with an iPod," said Chris Aamot, St. John's director of student services, who thinks podcasting is a passing fad. "People have learned based on talking to each other for thousands of years. No matter what the technology, it's not a person."
But, as other area schools begin to embrace iPods, St. John's may find itself in the minority.
Jo Paoletti, director of undergraduate studies for Maryland's American Studies Department, said next year's introductory course will include weekly podcasts with a "radio show format" that includes interviews, short lectures and broadcasts from association meetings.
Arabic instructor Ridha Krizi said the university's School of Languages, Literature and Cultures also issued iPods to 11 students last year, allowing them to listen to lessons and record verbal practice and feedback for their professors.
"I hope this is only the beginning of what we can do," he said.
Staff Writer Pete Holley contributed to this story.
Kimberly Marselas is a freelance writer in Bowie.
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